Dads have such an important role in the NICU, but at times it can seem as if your role is secondary, as everyone around focuses on Mom and her recovery, needs, and emotions. Don't let this discourage you. Your role and support is vital to your baby's well-being.
You may find yourself feeling helpless and at a loss as to what to do. Strong and often contradictory emotions, such as anger and sadness, guilt and grief, helplessness and hope may be swirling through your head throughout the day. Stop and take a moment to acknowledge what you are feeling and just how difficult your situation is. Having a child in the NICU may be the hardest thing you ever face in your life, so now is not the time to try to do it all. Focus on what you can do to help yourself, your baby and your partner.
Taking care of yourself physically and emotionally can be a challenge while in the NICU but you'll be better prepared for your baby's care if you are at your best.
Helping Your Baby
Looking at your new baby hooked up to machines, looking so small and frail....this is not what you imagined fatherhood to look like. You may be extremely nervous about holding your baby, and participating in his/her care for fear of doing something wrong. Pay close attention to what the nurses are doing and ask lots of questions so you can feel confident about helping. They know that all parents are nervous about what to do, so no question will surprise them. Take notes if you need to or have them stay right there with you the first few times until you feel comfortable. The most important thing is not to the let opportunities pass you by. You will want to experience and remember these special moments.
Learn more about staying involved in your baby's care here.
Helping your Spouse or Partner
You may find yourself wondering just how Mom is able to handle everything -- and the secret is, she can't do it without a lot of help. Make sure you are helping take care of her so she is able to focus on your child as well. Some things that might help:
Most of all, try to take one moment at a time and enjoy special moments and milestones with your family. Your baby has had a rough start to life and you have an integral role in her/his care.